ACLU-NJ, Garden State Equality urge school districts to readopt policy to protect transgender students

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ACLU-NJ, Garden State Equality urge school districts to readopt policy to protect transgender students

The civil rights organizations sent letters to 16 school districts that recently revoked state Policy 5756, which provided vital information about how transgender students are protected under federal and state law.

For Immediate Release: April 24, 2024

 

NEWARK – The ACLU of New Jersey and Garden State Equality sent letters to 16 school districts across the state urging them to readopt state Policy 5756 to safeguard the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth and to meet their responsibilities to transgender students under federal and state law. By revoking this important policy, school districts, leave administrators without clear guidance of the law, open their districts to legal liability, and, most alarmingly, signal to LGBTQ+ students and families that their schools may not be a safe and welcoming environment.

“School administrators must do everything they can to protect trans kids. As LGBTQ+ rights face renewed threats across the country, New Jersey has a responsibility to lead by example and ensure that students in our state feel safe, supported, and respected. We’re calling on these school districts to immediately readopt Policy 5756,” said ACLU-NJ Staff Attorney Elyla Huertas (she/her).

Letters were sent to 16 school districts who recently revoked the policy, including: Colts Neck, Freehold, Franklin Lakes, Holmdel, Howell, Lacey, Lafayette, Millstone, Old Bridge, Ramapo Indian Hills, Roxbury, Sparta, Sussex-Wantage, Union Township (Hunterdon County), Vineland, and Washington Township.

Schools have a moral and legal responsibility to protect all students. Studies have shown that LGBTQ+ youth are far more likely to be bullied and harassed at school, to be alienated from their families and communities, and to suffer from depression and suicidal ideation than their non-LGBTQ+ peers. Further, revealing a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity to their parents can have dramatic and unforeseen consequences, such as verbal or physical abuse or being thrown out of the home.

“All of the data show affirming schools are a lifeline for LGBTQ+ students,” said Lauren Albrecht, Director of Advocacy and Organizing for Garden State Equality (she/her). “So when schools don’t know – or outright reject research-backed, educator-approved, and, until recently, uncontroversial guidelines for – how to meet the well-documented needs of these students, it isn’t hyperbole to say lives are at risk.”

Policy 5756 arose out of guidance that originated during former Gov. Chris Christie’s second term, when he signed a law in 2017 directing the Commission of Education to provide school districts with “guidelines concerning transgender students.” Soon after, in 2018 during Gov. Murphy’s administration, the New Jersey Department of Education released its Transgender Student Guidance for School Districts, which reiterated the statutory and constitutional protections afforded to transgender students. This led to the adoption of Policy 5756 by a majority of the nearly 600 school districts throughout the state to help navigate their responsibilities under the law.

Last month, along with the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest, the ACLU-NJ and Garden State Equality filed amicus briefs in support of cases brought by the New Jersey Attorney General against three Monmouth County school districts that adopted policies requiring school staff to out transgender students to their parents or guardians. Those cases are currently pending appeal in state court.

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The ACLU of New Jersey has defended liberty and justice guided by the vision of a fair and equitable New Jersey for all since our founding in 1960. Our mission is to preserve, advance, and expand the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions in courts, in the legislature, and in our communities. We strive to be anti-racist and are actively committed to advancing racial justice for the people of New Jersey. We are a non-partisan organization that operates across political, legal, and cultural fronts to bring about systemic change and build a more equitable society.

Garden State Equality, the largest LGBTQ+ advocacy organization in New Jersey, lifts up the diverse voices of LGBTQ+ communities through education, advocacy, and wellness to advance the movement for equality in New Jersey and nationally.

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